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Bernina 117L

Bernina 117L

Circa 1954, #410151

I found this machine hiding in a modern Horn cabinet at an auction site. I nearly fell over when I saw it. These machines are so hard to find here and it is only the second I have seen for sale locally. The first was out of my price range.

I had only found the Bernina 121 a few weeks earlier. I guess it is Bernina time in my collection.

I bid on the auction and was surprised that I won it easily. It might have helped that the description of the auction was “Horn sewing machine cabinet with Barina sewing machine inside.” I guess I just got lucky, I was in the right place at the right time.

I had not had a chance to inspect the machine before auction. So, I took a punt, even if it was a wreck, it would be worth it to me. To my utter joy it came with its accessories and manual. Plenty of bobbins to play with and original bobbin case. Unfortunately, I could see right away that it had at least 2 things wrong with it. The tension spring for the bobbin winder was missing (this I am hopeful I can find a replacement for). The other thing seems to be more major, the little knob that engages the fancy automatic stitches has broken off. Luckily for me the knob is in the accessories tin. In time I hope to get it fixed, but I won’t hold my breath.

The case has had the clips taken off it, so it would have originally had a lid, again the clips are still with the machine, but clearly the lid would have not fit in the Horn cabinet. The bottom of the base has come off. This is the first base that I have seen with a chain to hold the machine and the machine secured in with heavy bolts.

The machine still needs to be cleaned, oiled and rewired. I have a suspicion that it was rewired late in the 1900s as the new wiring is grey and the foot pedal is from that era. The motor would be original as they put these Wernard motors on most imported sewing machines from that era, but the original foot pedal would have been a Wernard Bakelite one. There is blue tack on the back, which I will remove carefully, but overall, the decals look lovely. So apart from her flaws, I hope to get her cleaned up and working again. Nothing is seized and everything rotates and moves as it should, in a smooth manner.

This machine takes the semi-industrial round shank needle, the DBX1 needle system, you can find more information on needles on my VSM Needles page.

The manual that came with machine has been scanned and uploaded to my google drive. To download a free copy you can find that here. It includes on the last two pages, some handwritten notes that were tucked into the manual.

Update Jan 2023, the machine is now cleaned, has been repaired by a local service technician and has found a new table to call its own. What a beautiful machine this has turned out to be and one I will cherish and use. Updated photos below.

Below are the auction pictures.

Updated photos of final machine Jan 2023.

I had to saw out some parts of the table opening to accommodate the 117L. Previously the table housed a Singer 66 and while the gap was the correct size, the Bernina 117L had more protruding parts around the edge of its base. I got it fitting perfectly, then discovered that the hinges that fit the 99 did not fit the 117L, so I replaced the hinges, taking them from the original Bernina base. I needed to drill out a couple of circles and the hole where the bolt of the hinge goes through the table top, to be secured by the washers and nuts. All seemed to go well until I secured the machine in. I’m about 2mm out. The hinges have pushed the machine forward, just a smidge and the front of the machine, just does not drop down as the machine lip catches on the table. If I had a router I could rectify it, but I don’t, so for now I have rubber stoppers around the base of the machine to keep it elevated and cushioned, just above the table top. I’m happy to use it like this now, one day I may route out the front of the table.

Advertising for the Bernina 117 in the 1950s

1 thought on “Bernina 117L”

  1. I really enjoyed the article and thank you for allowing everyone to download the manual I have been after one for some time . As I have a industry 117 it’s not quite the same machine that you have (and my I say you have done wonders to your 117 well done) but it’s close cheers and all the best Russell

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